Jared McCann and Matty Beniers each collected multi point games while Philipp Grubauer won for his fourth straight turn in net with 20 saves to give the Seattle Kraken a wire-to-wire 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, before 17,151 fans at Climate Pledge Arena.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs keep getting real by the day for the second year expansion franchise, shattering expectations with a nine-point lead with 18 games to play.
“We had some timely plays, we scored some timely goals,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “Penalty kill did a real good job, power play got one at the right time, and our goaltender was good all night long.”
Jamie Oleksiak and McCann staked the Kraken out to a 2-0 lead, an important element coming off a four-game road trip. Trevor Zegras scored a highlight reel, filthy between-the-legs goal just 35 seconds into the second period, only answered by back-to-back goals from Daniel Sprong and a power play snipe by Eeli Tolvanen.
The Ducks, who were previously 5-of-7 on the power play against the Kraken, were silenced at an 0-of-3 clip. The Kraken penalty kill is turning a corner, delivering a clean sheet in nine of the last ten games.
“It’s just everybody on the same page,” said forward Brandon Tanev. “We’ve had some big saves from our goaltending that have made things easier for us. Blocking shots, communicating, pressure when we can, and making things difficult for them setting up into the zone.”
1. THE FIRST PERIOD WAS EXACTLY WHAT THE KRAKEN NEEDED. For as good of a season the Kraken have enjoyed, and this may be psychoanalyzing, they have struggled with sustaining leads in a 20-minute frame that defines the path to their success. Prior to Tuesday night, the Kraken scored first in each of the previous seven games. That’s a good start. The crowd was on their side, and energy was present in the building. But keeping it was a different case. In those seven games, they only emerged with the first intermission lead three times. At 18-2-1 when leading after one period, that benchmark is often a key for success. The loss against Toronto, nearly a week and a half ago, played that example to the extreme. Vince Dunn scored the game’s first goal, only to see momentum wiped away with a 3-1 Toronto lead after one period.
Despite giving up a pair of quality looks early to Anaheim, the Kraken, coming off the trip, held serve at home.
“We were a little loose defensively,” said Hakstol. “When the gas tank’s not full and your energy is not great, you miss some of your spots and assignments defensively.”
“We were able to score a couple of timely goals and build the lead from there.”
There would be no such setback on Tuesday night. Jamie Oleksiak scored on the first Kraken shot of the game, then Jared McCann finished an “on brand” Kraken play – speed, transition, and a marksman like shot off the rush to make it 2-0. Anaheim never caught up.
2. TREVOR ZEGRAS IS THAT DUDE. It took that kind of play to even make the game close.
Tip your hat and give credit where credit is due. What a play.
We’ll be seeing this on highlight shows for years to come. We've seen it before.
He even pulled this stuff off last year, before a nationally televised audience.
Is Zegras showing off?
No. Tongue in cheek remark aside, that play to get the Ducks back to within one was a creative way to score a goal, and one the NHL wants to put on a billboard. Zegras is already there, on the cover of a video game. He is part of a new generation that screams skill, speed, dynamic movement, and edge-of-your-seat moments. It’s what the game needs, and it’s what many fans crave.
We are well past the “dead puck” era where a 3-2 game would be an offensive slugfest, which cramped the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Defense will always have its right place. But in the modern era, not at the expense of creativity. Zegras put on a show for a moment that a sellout crowd in Seattle, and a nationally televised audience, will never forget. Scoring is up in the NHL again. And we’re all better to see it.
3. HOPE FOR THE BEST WITH VINCE DUNN. With the Kraken up by three goals and an ice cube standing a greater chance to survive in desert heat than Anaheim’s chances, Max Comtois delivered a high hit to defenseman Vince Dunn that shocked a sellout crowd with disbelief and a Kraken blueliner, normally mild-mannered, to blow his top. First, at Comtois, then, at the officials, who called no penalty on the play except to give Dunn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Dunn then mysteriously left the penalty box during the middle of Anaheim’s power play, confirmed by Hakstol after the game as a call “from up top,” an indication of Dunn’s removal by a league concussion spotter and protocol.
Dunn’s anger was more than visible immediately following the hit, with Comtois making contact up high on Dunn and coincidentally connecting with Dunn's stick (which hit Dunn in the face), with Dunn slamming his stick against the glass while at the bench. When issued the two-minute penalty, he chucked his helmet into the penalty box harder than a Max Scherzer fastball.
“He was pissed off and I get why,” said Hakstol. “(Comtois’ hit) was a bit late, and he held his cool getting off the ice and snapped on the bench. His teammates had his back, got the job done, and we move on.”
The Kraken killed the penalty to keep the game at a three-goal pace. Hakstol said no update on Dunn’s status was available at the end of the game while Dunn, who is enjoying a career year as a linchpin on the Kraken blueline, was not available for comment immediately following the game.
The Kraken will continue their four-game homestand on Thursday, hosting the Ottawa Senators at 7pm PT (93.3 KJR-FM Kraken Audio Network).
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. ANAHEIM, 3/7: